This is the first installment of my Lawyers Who Lead series, which will feature insights and advice from a broad range of lawyers, and will showcase their career paths and what they think it takes to be successful as a lawyer today. 

I’m excited to feature Daniel (Dan) Shulman in the Lawyers Who Lead series. Chicago-based Dan is an experienced intellectual property litigator and appellate lawyer at Vedder Price.

Dan brings a unique perspective and client-focused approach to his practice honed by over a decade serving as in-house as chief IP counsel for a multibillion-dollar conglomerate holding thousands of worldwide patents and trademarks.

In his bio, I love that Dan says his approach to his clients follows the Golden Rule – he treats his clients the way he expected to be treated by his own outside counsel. You can read Dan’s full bio and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Read more about Dan and his career path.

Why did you become a lawyer?

I didn’t think I would ever make a living as a physicist. At least that’s what my physics advisor told me my senior year in college. He asked if I could write better than I could solve partial differential equations and do vector calculus, and I realized that I could.

Why did you choose your area of law?

I still love science (despite the support of my physics advisor), so intellectual property law became a natural fit. I went to law school knowing it was the only kind of law I wanted to practice. As it turns out, it suits me because it touches on every aspect of law—litigation, transactional, negotiation, client development, strategy. I find it fun.

Describe yourself in three words.

Empathetic, creative, driven.

What do you wish you could tell your younger self?

Adulthood is the beginning of self, not the culmination. You won’t find the answers during your younger years, but hopefully you find the right questions. Your 47-year-old self loves you, but you might not recognize him.

What are your success tips for an associate?

Be a sponge, try new things, and ask questions. Find mentors and bosses who will teach you, but forgive you. There is nothing wrong with failing your way to success.

How has being a lawyer helped you in other areas of your life?

I represent myself when contesting parking tickets.

How have you used marketing to build your brand and business?

I spent more than half my career as an in-house chief IP counsel. Part way through that experience, I realized that, as much as the job was a perfect fit for me in that place and time in my life, it might not be a forever job. One of two things would happen: I would find a different challenge in a chief IP counsel role for a much bigger company, or I’d go back to private practice when my personal life permitted the lifestyle demands of private practice (i.e., when my kids got older).

So, I began to build my brand by attending conferences of my peers. My plan was to be on as many short lists as I could be on for colleagues who might leave a job and think about recommending a replacement, or for colleagues who would appreciate hiring a peer who really understood their role when looking for outside counsel.

When I went the outside counsel route, I leveraged those relationships, and my in-house experience, to provide a distinctive reason why an in-house lawyer would be comfortable hiring me. I continue to pitch myself as the former in-house lawyer who has been in my client’s shoes at conferences, seminars, on podcasts, in networking groups and in direct one-on-one meetings.

How have you used social media to build your business/brand?

I try to be a regular poster of content on LinkedIn on topics that I think people will find interesting. Most of them touch on legal, but mostly my aim is to show my personality. I did a recent post explaining the different toys and diversions I keep in my office. The key to getting business is, in order: know, like and trust. My social media presence is about the know and like part. The trust comes from word-of-mouth, referrals and doing the good work I am hired to do.

What do you think it takes to be a great lawyer?

Ask me when I retire, and I’ll tell you how I think I did. Whatever the answer, I’m sure it will involve two traits: integrity and humility.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

I was a cocky young lawyer when a very senior partner told me, “I wish I was as sure about anything as you are about everything.”

Who has had the biggest influence on you?

My kids, because I don’t do anything without their future and well-being in mind. I won’t be a success at anything if I fail at modeling for them.

What is your favorite book?

The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky), Ada (Vladimir Nabokov), God in Search of Man (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel)

What is your favorite quote?

Anything Groucho Marx ever said. One I use with my in-house lawyer clients is, “Try to learn from my mistakes. You’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.” Also, “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Tell us a surprising fact about you?

I like to solve Rubik’s cubes while the IT person is trying to fix my laptop. I know it’s passive aggressive, but I think the prospect that I have solved a Rubik’s cube three times before they can get my laptop to work correctly makes them work faster.

I also wrote a book of Torah commentary called “Personal Midrash.”